Published: Sept. 20, 2017

SpaceX capsule floating over Earth.The cross-campus Grand Challenge initiative is announcing the selection of new additions to the Grand Challenge portfolio and projects led by Smead Aerospace Engineering Sciences faculty are being awarded two of the three grant awards.

The call for proposals, which was announced in June, is funding one large research initiative at approximately $1 million per year and two smaller projects at $250,000 per year, each for at least three years.

The selections augment the current Grand Challenge portfolio, building on the accomplishments of Earth LabIntegrated Remote and In Situ Sensing (IRISS), the university's space minor and the Center for the Study of Origins

“These projects are the epitome of impacting humanity, leading in innovation and developing tomorrow's leaders,” said Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano. "They combine our strengths with inspiration, innovation and world-class faculty and researchers."

Space Weather

Jeff ThayerThe new “initiative-level” selection, Space Weather Technology, Research and Education Center, will be led by Jeff Thayer (Aerospace Engineering Sciences), in collaboration with Dan Baker (Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, or LASP), Cora Randall (Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences) and Nils Halverson (Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences).

This proposal seeks to establish CU Boulder as the world’s leading university in space weather by establishing the Space Weather Technology, Research and Education Center (SWx TREC). Space weather poses a significant threat to humans working in space, modern ground-based technological systems, satellite operations and observations, communications, navigation, airline operations and more, which results in significant societal, economic, national security and health impacts. CU Boulder already houses many leading researchers, educators and technology developers in space weather. The state of Colorado is a national hub for space weather activities, including partners at the High Altitude Observatory (NCAR), the Space Weather Prediction Center (NOAA), the National Solar Observatory (NSF) and a number of industry partners, such as Ball Aerospace and Lockheed Martin.

Magnetic Cubist Constellation for Advanced Navigational Models

Bob MarshallA project-level selection, “Magnetic Cubist Constellation for Advanced Navigational Models,” will be directed by Robert Marshall (Aerospace Engineering Sciences).

This project leverages the combined expertise of CU Boulder’s Ann and H.J. Smead Aerospace Engineering Sciences Department, CIRES Geomagnetism Team and Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) for the development, construction, testing and flight of the first ever CubeSat dedicated to the efficient and economical collection of high-resolution magnetic field data.

Strong Competition

According to Director of Strategic Projects Dr. Emily CoBabe-Ammann, the response to the call for proposals was “fantastic,” resulting in the submission of six initiative-level proposals and 18 project-level proposals. Proposals were evaluated by the Grand Challenge Review Panel comprised of both internal and external members, including academic, industry and government perspectives. The evaluation was based on the following criteria: innovation­, transforming our campus, sustainability and impact. Recommendations were then submitted to Grand Challenge and university leadership for final endorsement.

The Grand Challenge website has more information about the competition and the third award, which was won by faculty in the College of Media, Communication and Information.